Whiskey, vermouth, bitters. The Manhattan sounds simple. And it is. And it isn’t. You see everything depends on the whisky you use, which vermouth – and how much, and the same for the bitters. It’s a balancing act, a test of palate. The interplay of the three ingredients, stirred for exactly the right amount of time to achieve optimal chilling and dilution tells you in one sip whether you got it right or not. It’s personal. Very personal. The right Manhattan for you will likely be wrong for most. Start with the whiskey. To call it a Manhattan it needs to be New World whiskey – rye, Bourbon or Canadian (if you use Scotch it’s a Rob Roy). The original called for rye and I still think it’s the most pleasing – the spiciness of a good rye plays well against the sweetness of the vermouth and the bitterness of the bitters. The inherent sweetness of Bourbon throws it too far in one direction. But in any case a cheap whisky just won’t do justice to the Manhattan, make it something with a bit of character. Next up is the Italian (sweet) vermouth and again go for quality and character. The quantity is somewhat personal and dependent on the vermouth; anything from half a ounce to a full ounce is the usual range but three-quarters is a good starting point. The bitters should be of the aromatic variety but there are wide choices within that category. The finishing touch is the cherry and given the effort you’ve already expended, please don’t spoil it all with a neon-red fake one. The Manhattan deserves a real maraschino cherry – the best ones can be sourced from your nearest Italian deli. My personal choices for all these ingredients are outlined in the notes but do conduct your own experiments.
2oz rye whiskey (or Bourbon or Canadian).
0.75oz Italian (sweet/red) vermouth – more or less to taste.
2 dashes of aromatic bitters (eg. Angostura).
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop in one (real) maraschino cherry.
Toast the barman who delivered such a perfectly balanced cocktail – hey, that’s you!
My choices – as pictured – are Rittenhouse 100 proof rye (2oz), Punt e Mes (0.75oz), De Ooievaar Angostura bitters (2 dashes) and one Van Wees maraschino cherry – those last two made right here in Amsterdam.